Sunday, August 23, 2015

Authority, Part V: Conclusions

This post is part of a five-post series on the Church's authority. Click the links below to visit the other parts of the series.

Authority, Part I:  Introduction  
Authority, Part II:  Defining the Claims  
Authority, Part III:  Testing the Claims with the Early Church Fathers  
Authority, Part IV:  Testing the Claims with History  
Authority, Part V:  Conclusions  

Today we conclude our study on the study of apostolicity or apostolic authority of churches.

We learned the following:

  1. All Christians agree that a church is apostolic if and only if it adheres to the doctrine of the apostles. 
  2. All Christians agree that a church is apostolic if and only if it fulfills the roles of leadership ordained by the apostles. 
  3. Some Christians have argued further that a church is apostolic if and only if it has an unbroken chain of bishopric teachings back to the apostles. However, in testing this claim we found that:
    1. The Scripture has no evidence for such a transmission doctrine;
    2. The early church fathers from 60-180 AD report nothing similar to this doctrine;
    3. The early church fathers from 60-180 AD rely entirely upon Scripture to determine apostolicity of a teaching;
    4. A weaker version of this doctrine begins to arise about 190 AD in Irenaeus, continuing in Tertullian;
    5. This doctrine becomes fully developed in the fourth century and not before;
    6. Every lineage claimed by every church relating to this doctrine has serious historical doubts as to the evidence presented;
    7. Each of these lineages is fractured in multiple locations and simply the one that connects to modern is chosen as 'real' with no clear reasoning to justify the decision;
    8. This doctrine is based upon terminology which was not present at the time of the apostles and arose over a century later; and
    9. The idea that any doctrine could be handed properly through so many generations is impossible (unless done miraculously, which again begs questions 3.1-3.8 here).

When I began this study I did not know what I would find about #3. Actually I rather suspected that I would find merit in the Anglican and Protestant claims and be on the fence between them.

In the end, what I found was that the Protestant claim is the only one which holds water. The post-Biblical idea of an apostolic succession which results in the authority of the Magisterium of any of these churches (Anglican, Methodist, Orthodox, or Roman Catholic) to interpret the Scriptures in a 'special' way is frankly absurd. It just doesn't line up.

And so I must conclude, as the Reformers did before me, that the earliest Christians had it proper and correct.

Thus it is that my final conclusion regarding authority and apostolic succession is the same as that quoted by Origin in pt II:
"No man ought, for the confirmation of doctrines, to use books which are not canonized Scriptures." 

A church is apostolic in nature if it is in adherence with the teachings of the apostles, as handed down to us in the Scriptures. That alone shall be our guide.

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